Field Kindley prepares for state championship game

BY ANDY TAYLOR

chronicle@taylornews.org

COFFEYVILLE — Field Kindley High School head football coach Murray Zogg had a pressing day on Monday — trying to prepare his troops for this Saturday’s class 4A state championship game while also trying to sneak in a day or so of family time for Thanksgiving — before the corner of his eye caught a slight sparkle from the FKHS trophy case as he walked through the school hallway.

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Cherryvale man sought in deaths of 4 people in Parsons

 

PARSONS –  The Parsons Police Department, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies are investigating the deaths of four individuals in Parsons. The deceased individuals are identified as Cami Umbarger, 29, and her three minor children.

 

Authorities are seeking a suspect, David Cornell Bennett, Jr., of Cherryvale, Kan.

 

Any criminal prosecution resulting from the investigation will be handled by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office at the request of the Labette County Attorney. No charges have been filed. Any charges that might arise from the investigation are merely accusations. Individuals are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.

 

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office and other involved agencies are bound by the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.6, Trial Publicity and Rule 3.8, Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor.

David Bennett Jr

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Coffeyville man killed in wreck on U.S. 169

A Coffeyville man was killed Sunday evening in a two-vehicle wreck on U.S. 169 at the intersection of county road 2800 north of Coffeyville.

 

The Kansas Highway Patrol said Everett G. Bell, age 77, of Coffeyville died at the scene of the collision. Bell was driving westbound on county road 2800 in a 1991 Buick LeSabre when he attempted to cross U.S. 169 highway. Bell failed to yield at a stop sign at the road intersection and was hit by a northbound 2002 Peterbuilt semi-tractor trailer driven by Michael R. Lofton, age 55, of Inola, Okla.  Lofton was not injured in the wreck.

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Two arrested in counterfeit currency scheme in Independence

Two Independence people have been arrested as part of an investigation into the distribution of counterfeit currency in the Montgomery County region.

 

Montgomery County Sheriff Robert Dierks said Brian David Taylor, age 26, and Jan Angela Vicroy, age 33, both of Independence, were arrested this week and face charges on multiple counts of forgery. Taylor will also be charged with felony obstruction of the legal process.

 

Dierks said federal authorities have been assisting in the investigation, which opens the possibility that federal charges could be filed against the two Independence people.

 

Dierks said the investigation has involved the Independence Police Department, which has uncovered numerous counterfeit bills in various stores and businesses in the past several months.  He said the investigation had determined that the Independence was the center of the distribution of those bogus bills.

 

“The information indicates these these bills are being manufactured here in Independence and the distribution has been the heaviest here in this area,” he said. “We are confident that we are on the right trail in this investigation.”

 

The rash of counterfeit currency has been confirmed in multiple businesses in Cherryvale, Coffeyville and Independence.

 

For more arrests may follow, Dierks said. Persons with information about this case should contact the sheriff’s office at (620) 330-1000. Or, they can contact the Crime Tip Hotline at 1-800-498-1019. Callers may remain anonymous.

 

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Caney man killed in one-vehicle wreck

CANEY — A one-vehicle mishap late Saturday night, Oct. 12, has claimed the life of a Caney man.

 

The Kansas Highway Patrol says Timothy Ray Garton, age 26, of Caney was killed when his vehicle, a 1999 Ford Ranger, left county road 1700 just north of U.S. 166 highway, overturned and came to rest on its top in a creek.

 

No further information was available from the Kansas Highway Patrol’s crash log.

 

Garton was a lifelong resident of Caney.

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BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS: The story of how a botched surgery led to the murder of a star witness and the downfall of one of Coffeyville’s top physicians

BY ANDY TAYLOR

chronicle@taylornews.org

(Left to right)  Dr. S.A. Brainard, the physician; Paul Jones, the ex-con who concocted the plan to save the doctor by killing the state's chief witness; Esther O'Dare Nidiffer, the pregnant woman who died at the hands of Brainard's scapel; Mauriel Sullivan, the Oklahoma waitress who was hired for $35 to kill the state's top witness;  and Maude Martin, boarding house owner who turned state's witness and ended up a victim of a murder herself.

(Left to right) Dr. S.A. Brainard, the physician; Paul Jones, the ex-con who concocted the plan to save the doctor by killing the state’s chief witness; Esther O’Dare Nidiffer, the pregnant woman who died at the hands of Brainard’s scapel; Mauriel Sullivan, the Oklahoma waitress who was hired for $35 to kill the state’s top witness; and Maude Martin, boarding house owner who turned state’s witness and ended up a victim of a murder herself.

 

W.J. Aldrich thought something was awry when his cutting knife tore into the already bludgeoned body of Esther O’Dare Nidiffer on a late-summer night in 1930.

Aldrich was the Montgomery County coroner, who was summoned to investigate the death of a late-teenage Coffeyville woman who, according to her physician, had died in an emergency surgery to remove a ruptured appendix.

At the start of his autopsy, Aldrich was expecting to find the tell-tale signs of an attempted appendectomy: the three-inch incision on the lower right side of the abdomen, an intestinal tract that been pushed aside to remove the tube-like appendix, and the appearance of the nasty, foul poison that had claimed the lives of millions of people whenever that organ burst.

Imagine W.J. Aldrich’s surprise when the investigation into the death of Esther O’Dare Nidiffer, a healthy and beautiful young woman at the age of 18, revealed no incision, a perfectly intact appendix, and no infection. Imagine his shock when he found the ends of an intestinal tract that had been crudely tied together, and a portion of an intestine that was entirely missing.

The initial story told to Aldrich did not make a lot of sense. But, Aldrich had a hunch he knew exactly how Nidiffer died.

Lying on that mortuary room table on Sept. 14, 1930, the body of Esther O’Dare Nidiffer gave up evidence to something very bad — an illegal operation that ultimately was covered up to appear like a failed emergency surgery.

Thus began a chain of tragic events, as if the cruel butchering of an 18-year-old woman isn’t tragic enough, that would result in a scandal that shook the medical community across the nation, the cold-blooded murder of the state’s star witness, and the imprisonment of three people, including a Coffeyville doctor whose respect and influence rang with pride across the community.

Sadly, the life and memory of Esther O’Dare Nidiffer would be lost to the world as the scandal unfolded and became front-page news across the country.

 

* * * *

 

In the age of the Roaring Twenties, hot jazz and illegal booze fueled America’s appetite for even hotter sex.

The age of homemade brew and jazz allowed America to shed its Victorian clothing and revel in a new era of promiscuous behavior.

However, America still held a puritanical-view toward birth control.

A pregnant woman who wanted an abortion had little, if any, choice. Those were the pre-Roe vs. Wade days, when abortions, which the news media at that time described as “illegal operations,” were against the law.

The same was true for tubal ligation — the procedure of tying a female’s fallopian tubes, thereby sterilizing the female from further pregnancy.

However, for the right price (and all of it pushed under the table), a doctor could be “bought” to perform either procedure — far away from his own medical office to prevent any hint of it.

And, that’s what allegedly happened when Esther O’Dare Nidiffer, a sexually active 18-year-old woman who already had a child several years earlier, approached Maude Martin, the owner of boarding house and now a personal confidant.

No one knows for sure (for media coverage of that era largely barred the words “abortion” or “birth control” in its news stories), but Nidiffer needed to go under the knife to avoid a pregnancy . . . or to rid herself of an unwanted one.

Martin confronted her physician, Dr. S.A. Brainard, a well-respected town doctor who also was a member of the Coffeyville school board and served in various capacities in the Methodist Church. Brainard consented to performing the procedure, provided it occurred in Martin’s boarding house and not in the doctor’s office.

The operation was set for Sept. 13, 1930. Martin served as Brainard’s impromptu assistant.

And, that’s where details of this story start to get more mired in blood.

Something went horribly wrong in that dimly-lit boarding room. In the performance of stopping Nidiffer of her child bearing capability, Dr. Brainard’s scalpel somehow severed Nidiffer’s intestine, causing an immediate hemorrhage which he could not repair.

To use a simple medical phrase, Nidiffer “bled out” and died.

Standing back at seeing the dead patient on a blood-soaked bed, a nervous S.A. Brainard realized that his career could come to an end — and likely put him behind bars — if news got out of his sloppy operation.

So, he nervously concocted a story . . . then grabbed his already bloody scalpel. To provide cover for a botched surgery, Brainard began cutting and hacking away at Nidiffer’s intestines, tying the ends together to give the appearance that he was attempting, at Nidiffer’s urgent request, an emergency appendectomy.

Or, maybe that’s not what really happened.

Here’s another perspective: perhaps Nidiffer actually died on the makeshift operating table — far from any hospital or doctor’s office — as a result of an emergency surgery where a quick and brave effort to infuse medicine failed and the mystery of the mortality gained the upper hand.

Regardless of the story, W.J. Aldrich didn’t buy Brainard’s story when he examined Nidiffer’s body. He persuaded the county prosecutor to issue murder charges against Brainard and Martin. The two were arrested. Only in the court of law would the truth about Nidiffer’s demise come out, Aldrich believed.

The doctor immediately put up a rigorous defense in the media.

“I have never heard of such a ridiculous charge,” Brainard told the Associated Press about the murder charge. “I am a reputable practitioner. Mrs. Nidiffer died as a I have said she died, as a result of a perfectly legal operation performed in an effort to save her life.”

Newspaper coverage of Brainard’s arrest stretched to the far reaches of the region.

Maude Martin kept her mouth shut the entire time. However, she had an incredible story to tell.

It would come after having taken the oath to tell the truth . . . the whole truth . . . and nothing but the truth.

 

* * * *

 

In November 1930, Martin and Brainard were scheduled for separate trials in Montgomery County District Court. Martin turned state’s evidence in exchange for a dropped murder charge.

When a confident Maude Martin sat in that witness chair in the Coffeyville courtroom, she unleashed a story that would shake the foundations of modern medicine and deliver a brutal blow to the reputation of Dr. S.A. Brainard.

Here’s how Martin described the incident that occurred in her boarding house:

Brainard was performing an illegal operation on Nidiffer at her request, but Brainard accidentally severed her intestine during the procedure, causing Nidiffer to hemorrhage uncontrollably. She died within minutes. In an attempt to save his own skin, Dr. Brainard had turned Nidiffer into a product in a butcher’s shop, Martin testified. She admitted that she was in on the cover-up, help Brainard make sure Nidiffer’s body gave the appearance of an emergency appendectomy.

Martin even explained the made-up story that Brainard had concocted: Nidiffer complained of feeling sick. She asked her boarding room owner to fetch the town doctor to examine her. Upon his home visit, the doctor found she was dying of a ruptured appendix and needed to remove it immediately to save her life. However, despite the physician’s heroic efforts, the young woman succumbed to the fatal poison that spewed from her ruptured appendix. End of story.

After a full day of hearing Martin’s testimony, the court adjourned until the next day.

However, the real drama was just brewing . . . literally.

On the next day, Judge J.W. Holdren noticed Brainard’s chief defense counsel, Charles Bucher, was drunk. Holdren quickly declared Bucher of contempt of court, fined him $50 and declared the whole case a mistrial as a result of the lawyer’s inebriated condition. Martin’s testimony the previous day would be stricken from the record . . . and she would have to return to the witness stand to tell every sordid detail once more.

She would have time to brush up on her story. The second trial against Dr. S.A. Brainard would be held in January 1931.

That meant Brainard, the upstanding civic leader and town doctor, would have to wait two more months in an attempt to clear his name.

Unless, of course, his name could be cleared automatically with the star witness muffled and silenced . . . forever.

 

* * * *

 

On the night of Jan. 5, 1931, Maude Martin was found dead in her home.

She died from a single gunshot to the head.

Her body was found near a phonograph player. A stack of wax records were sitting next to her slumped body.

A poorly-written suicide note full of misspellings and even worse grammar was found on the desk. It read, “Judge Holdren: I am guilty of Ester’s death. Brainard is inocent. l don’t feel too hard at me. I aide to help her I cant stand this any longer. I am too nervous to live. Good by.  — Maude Martin.”

If that suicide note was true, then Martin cleared Dr. Brainard of the murder of Nidiffer.

However, Coffeyville police didn’t have to see the pitiful grammar and failed spellings to realize Martin didn’t write it. They only had to look at the bullet wound.

That’s because the bullet entered from the lower back portion of the skull and exited the right front jaw. What human, even in a state of despair, could end his or her life by firing a gun at an odd angle from the lower rear area of the skull?

A strangely-written suicide note. An even more odd gunshot wound fired from a difficult angle. The evidence didn’t add up.

Local police quickly believed that Martin died of a cold-blooded murder, not suicide.

The local cops went on the detective trail to find anything that could piece together Martin’s untimely and mysterious end.

Local police did know that Martin had befriended Mauriel Sullivan, a former waitress from Seminole, Okla., who, in the last weeks of December, had been staying at Coffeyville’s Beldorf Hotel and had been spotted on many occasions in Martin’s company. On the morning after Martin’s murder, police noticed Sullivan had checked out of the hotel and returned to Oklahoma.

On the night of Jan. 11, 1931, Seminole police, acting on a tip from their cohorts in Coffeyville, arrested Mauriel Sullivan. The gum-chomping Sullivan started to spill her guts before the handcuffs were fastened around her wrists.

“Well, I guess you have the goods on me . . . but it was Brainard who got me to do it,” she told Seminole authorities.

Sullivan told police that she was hired directly by a man named Paul Jones, a convicted bootlegger who ran a taxi service in Coffeyville. She said Jones acted as the doctor’s agent in the arrangement to permanently silence Martin.

She got $85 to pull the trigger.

“They’re a bunch of cheap skates,” Sullivan told the press. “They told me they’d give me $100 for the job, but all I ever got was $85. Believe me, If I had it to do over again, I’d sure insist on getting the cash in advance!”

 

* * * *

 

With Sullivan’s confession in hand, prosecutors in Montgomery County now had more charges to file against Brainard, including conspiracy to commit murder. Jones, the local taxi driver, was also charged with conspiracy as was Dale “Slim” Orrison. Orrison ultimately was cleared of his involvement with the case.

Upon his arrest, Jones’ tongue moved rapidly. He also confessed to have been a primary party in the murder of Maude Martin in an effort to protect his friend, Dr. S.A. Brainard, who, Jones, claimed, had asked him to put the hit on Martin.

Brainard strenuously denied the stories, claiming he was a victim of a larger frame-up by Martin and Jones.

At Brainard’s trial in February 1931, the evidence and testimony from Jones and Sullivan against Brainard were strong. The prosecution also got charges to be filed against a Coffeyville lawyer, “Bun” Hanlon, for serving as another conspirator in the case. Jones testified that he had met Hanlon in a previous trial for embezzlement and that he knew Hanlon could be the type of guy who would come through in a murder-for-hire scheme. They admitted to receiving money — between $400 and $500 — from Brainard to do the unthinkable.

There also was some tangible evidence, including the charred remains of Brainard’s automobile, which was found in a city dump near Seminole. Jones and Sullivan both testified that they took the good doctor’s vehicle, burned it at the doctor’s request, and left it in the Seminole city trash heap. The doctor collected the insurance proceeds, which, they claimed, were used to pay for Martin’s murder.

Sullivan also testified that she never fired the .32-caliber revolver that killed Martin, that she had the gun in hand while Martin was browsing through a stack of phonograph albums but turned cold and went into another room where Jones awaited for Sullivan to do the evil deed. Only upon Sullivan’s nervous condition did Jones agree to be the hit man.

Martin apparently did not notice Jones from behind as she knelt over that stack of jazz records. The one bullet discharged from the gun entered Martin’s head from the rear of the skull and came out her jaw. She died instantly.

Jones, who was a junior high school dropout, quickly scrawled a suicide note to make it look like Martin had ended her own life. They put the revolver in Martin’s dead hands and then fled the boarding house. A professional handwriting expert was called to the stand to give expert claims that the suicide note was, in fact, written by an undereducated male.

When Brainard finally reached the witness chair, he profusely admitted ignorance to the entire story. He said he had never given any money to Jones, had never met Mauriel Sullivan, nor had any connection in a murder-for-hire scheme.

Instead, Brainard pointed the finger squarely at Jones, who, Brainard claimed, had asked the doctor after the November 1930 mistrial about “doing something” to silence Martin. When Jones told Brainard he could “take care of Martin” permanently, Brainard said he was horrified at Jones’ murderous suggestion and quickly dispelled it.

To even prove his story that he had nothing to do with Maude Martin’s death, Brainard testified that on the night of Martin’s murder, he was — where else — but at a school board meeting.

Would the jury buy his story?

Newspapers across the nation were filled with sensational headlines about the trial, and news reporters played upon Coffeyville’s connection with the Dalton gang’s demise in 1892 as a historical angle in their accounts.

Would Dr. S.A. Brainard go down in infamy in the same way as the Daltons? And, would Brainard be shown as having blood on his hands the entire time?

 

* * * *

 

For an entire week, the jury in the Dr. S.A. Brainard case had been sequestered.

Their movements were confined to the courtroom and an ante room in Coffeyville City Hall were cots were placed for their nightly slumber. Their meals were eaten together . . . but away from the public. They slept under the watchful eyes of a guard, who refused to let conversation take place.

Radios were not allowed.

Newspapers were banned from the jury.

Silence prevailed.

However, jury members who heard days of testimony were swift to render justice. It only took 53 minutes for the jury to determine that Dr. S.A. Brainard was guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

For their confession, both Jones and Sullivan were sentenced to life imprisonment, but the sentence was reduced to 20-30 years behind bars as part of the agreement with prosecutors. Their sentences were later commuted by order of Gov. Walter Huxman.

When Jones was admitted to the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kan., he, like all other inmates, was given a questionnaire to fill out with details about his background and life. One of the questions asked “What is the cause of downfall?”

Jones replied, “Influence of other people.”

With his sentence commuted twice by Gov. Walter Huxman, Jones served nine and a half years of prison before being released on July 3, 1940.

Sullivan was sentenced to the Kansas Women’s Reformatory where prison records are largely non-existent.  She was later sent to the women’s wing of the state prison in Lansing.

However, it is chronicled in newspaper archives that Sullivan escaped from prison in May 1939 and was found three months later in Excelsior Springs, Mo., under the name Marjorie Donovan Reeves. Aiding in her escape was Albert Reeves, a prisoner had been captured by police in Kansas City, Mo.

When shown a photo of Sullivan, Reeves admitted to helping her escape.

“Yeah, that’s her,” he said, “but you didn’t expect me to squeal on her, did you?”

What about “Bun” Hanlon, the Coffeyville attorney who was charged with being a conspirator? He was acquitted in a separate trial in 1931.

As for Brainard, the state saved its harshest punishment for the Coffeyville physician: life imprisonment under hard labor.

According to prison records, Brainard was assigned to the prison rock pile for four years before health ailments prevented him from busting rocks. He ultimately found a position where he could apply his trade — as a prison physician. It was a title he held with some degree of pride during his years in confinement.

In his entry questionnaire, Brainard attributed his downfall to being “a victim of circumstance.” Even in that questionnaire, Brainard steadfastly professed his innocence.

While Jones and Sullivan each had their sentences commuted by Kansas governors, Brainard’s requests for executive clemency were denied — 13 times.

He died in prison on April 2, 1949, at the age of 64, having spent 18 years behind bars.

 

 

(Editor’s note: information for this story came from multiple newspaper accounts, however the bulk of it came from the Vancouver (Canada) Sun on Aug. 31, 1931.  The Sun had sent a reporter to Coffeyville to cover the Dr. S.A. Brainard trial)

 

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Coffeyville man arrested on attempted doubled murder at drive-in

(11:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 1) Second update to Coffeyville Sonic Drive-In . . .

 

The Montgomery County Chronicle has learned that Robert Jay Bocook, age 27, of Coffeyville, who will be charged in the attempted murder of two Girard men at the Coffeyville Sonic Drive-In on Sunday evening, previously served time in the Kansas prison system for a burglary in Labette County and also served jail time for a burglary in Washington County, Okla., in 2010.

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Coffeyville woman to be charged with second degree attempted murder

 

 

A Coffeyville woman was arrested Monday night on a charge of attempted second degree murder in the alleged CoffVeronicaRGBstabbing an adult male.

 

Police chief Anthony Celeste said Veronia Yvonne Gadlin, age 36, was found several blocks from the scene of the stabbing at 509 E. Eighth. She was arrested and taken to the Montgomery County Jail for booking.

 

Celeste said Shawn Durden, age 42, of Coffeyville was stabbed several times in the chest and neck. He was transported to Coffeyville Regional Medical Center, where he was admitted in stable condition.

 

This investigation is ongoing and anyone with information on this case, or who may have witnessed this crime, is encouraged to contact the police department at 620-252-6160. Individuals wishing to remain anonymous may provide information to the Crime Tip Hotline at 620-252-6133.

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Press statement from Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department . . .

Montgomery County Sheriff Robert Dierks announced today that information circulating regarding a white male and a 19-year-old girl traveling the area allegedly collecting information about children is being investigated by sheriff’s department and that earlier information released by authorities has not been verified at this time.

Dierks state that the information was originally provided to the sheriff’s department from an online source.

Dierks said information obtained earlier Monday indicated that a white male and 19-year-old girl were traveling the area, going house to house asking for information about children residents and that they were possibly involved in the sex trafficking of children. Dierks stated that the origin of this information has not been able to be verified by law enforcement at this time.

The sheriff did say that there is information about people doing door to door solicitations for the sale of books and magazine subscriptions and that some information regarding this activity may have been confused with the sex trafficking story.

Dierks said a deputy had made contact with a subject in the Elk City area who recently was selling books and had a valid permit from the county to operate. Dierks urged any resident who has contact with someone going door to door to not jump to conclusions about their purpose, and to contact local law enforcement so that people can be checked out and verified.

“Please, let’s not panic and let’s not jump to any conclusions,” he said. “We are working hard to investigate the claims from the earlier information and to verify the source of that information. Anyone with concerns about people in their neighborhood or going door to door should contact us. We are more than happy to send officers out to check out these folks. It’s what we do.”

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Coffeyville man arrested on attempted vehicle burglary

An 18-year-old Coffeyville man was arrested early Thursday, July 18 for vehicle burglary.

 

CoffMcGinnisPolice chief Anthony Celeste said Michael Lee McGinnis of Coffeyville was arrested after he was discovered stealing a vehicle in the 100 block of West Third around 12:30 a.m., Thursday. When officers arrived, McGinnis fled on foot. Officers pursued McGinnis and captured the suspect.

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